With the results of the 1990 census, the state of North Carolina was awarded a twelfth seat in the House of Representatives. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits a covered jurisdiction from making changes in a "standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting" without federal authorization. In order to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the North Carolina General Assembly submitted to the United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, a congressional reapportionment plan with one majority black district. The Attorney General objected to this plan on the grounds that a second district could have been created to give effect to minority voting strength in the State's south-central to southeastern region. Hence, the General Assembly passed new legislation which created a second majority black district. The appellants, who were five North Carolina residents, said that the revised plan, which contained district boundary lines of dramatically irregular shape, constitutes an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, and is against the Fourteenth Amendment. Racial gerrymandering is the drawing of election district boundaries in order to benefit a race. The appellants stated that the two majority black districts were created with irregular shapes in order to assure the election of two black representatives. After a district court ruled against them, the appellants appealed to the Supreme Court.
This case was brought to the Supreme Court where they had one major question to answer: Have the appellants stated a cognizable claim? In other words, did the North Carolina resident's claim that the state created a racially gerrymandered district raise a valid constitutional issue under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?
The Supreme Court's answer was "Yes." The Court stated that although the plan by North Carolina was racially neutral on its face, the shape of the district which resulted from it was "bizarre" enough to suggest that it made an effort to separate voters into different districts based on race. The court ruled in favor of the residents, and their claim did give rise to an equal protection challenge. Therefore, the Court ordered that the District Court should decide whether or not some compelling governmental interest justified North Carolina's plan. The Supreme Court reversed the District Courts ruling.
Shaw v. Reno (1993) was one of the first cases dealing with racial gerrymandering in creating majority black districts. Many consequences resulted from this landmark decision. First of all, it was ruled that state legislatures can take race into account when drawing electoral districts in order to increase the voting strength of minorities. But they may not make race the sole or predominant reason for drawing those district lines. Consequently, race can no longer be a reason to draw district lines. This also caused many southern districts being forced to redraw there district lines.
Sources:http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com and notes from Government class